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Another Day in the Country

Considering the essentials

© Another Day in the Country

My father had a natural curl to his hair, but I did not inherit that gene. My hair was straight. Therefore, by my mother’s definition, it was a problem.

My hair, once I acquired enough to worry about, was the kind of hair that got stringy and hung limp at my collar. Mom was always brushing it back away from my face, flipping it off my shoulders, away from my neck, and sighing.

As a child, I spent many a night with metal curlers in my hair, attempting to sleep face down on the pillow so as not to be prodded by those tin shanks with a tongue and a red rubber tip to keep them closed.

They were designed to bend your hair into shape — all to no avail. The curls (and the curlers) eventually always fell out.

When I became a teenager with long hair, before the advent of foam curlers, someone invented big metal rollers like miniature tin cans that you could use to curl your hair. I slept in those contraptions, too, for years.

Before my wedding, two months before my 20th birthday, my mother insisted that I needed to get a “permanent wave.”

Frugally, Mom always did the home variety, with smelly chemicals and plastic curlers with little paper wrappers. For my wedding, surprisingly, she proposed that I go to an actual beauty shop.

“How can you be a married woman?” she wondered, “with all the attendant duties, and still have time to keep your hair curled, without a permanent wave?”

I didn’t want to do this. I dragged my feet. She cajoled, reasoned, and pleaded with me as if my married life was going to be saved, if not eminently more successful, if the one thing I didn’t have to worry about was curling my hair.

Finally, I agreed when the beautician, one of my father’s parishioners, offered the procedure as her wedding gift.

Free? My mother, who loved bargains, was ecstatic, insinuating to me that non-acceptance of this gift would be ungrateful and unkind.

So my very first experience at the hands of a beautician was going in with long hair down to the middle of my back and coming out of the shop with kinked up hair that didn’t reach my shoulders — unless you pulled on it.

To this day, if I look at my wedding pictures, I don’t recognize myself. I do remember, however, that it took a long time for my hair to recover from that chemical encounter.

Needless to say, it was probably another 15 years before I ever darkened the door of a beautician’s shop. Through those intervening years, I discovered that I have wonderful hair.

Yes, it’s straight! Thankfully, straight hair came into vogue, and I finally worked up enough nerve to go to a wonderful stylist and have a professional haircut.

That was the day I discovered that someone who really knows how to cut hair is an essential worker.

My daughter is good at styling hair — having given her first haircut to a playmate when she was less than 5 years old. She did a pretty good job but was only halfway through when I discovered her and her little friend playing “barbershop.”

The hardest part was calling the neighbor next door, explaining, and then asking, “Would you like me to finish the job?”

I wasn’t a stranger to scissors. After all, I cut my kid’s hair and my husband’s hair and trimmed my own on occasion. 

I discovered that a really skilled hairdresser can make a person feel 10 years younger, light hearted and even beautiful.

When my California hairdresser retired, my daughter began cutting my hair and did this for me until I moved to Kansas.

Once again, I was hunting for a hairdresser. I needed a stylist who was skilled with a pair of scissors, someone a little daring, inventive — an artist. I looked everywhere, stopping people on the street to ask, “Who cuts your hair?” 

Finally I ended up at my cousin’s hairdresser in Lawrence. For quite a few years I’ve driven to Lawrence on a dual mission every few months to get my hair cut and visit my cousins.

Cindy, the hairdresser, became an essential part of my life. And then about six months ago, Cindy sent all of her faithful clients the news that she was retiring to attempt to find healing from cancer.

I’m telling you this story because there are so many folks that provide essential services for us every day.

Cindy was my essential hair-cutting person. No matter how hard the wind blew, my hair would fall back into place. No matter how ravaged I looked walking into her shop, I came out feeling like a million bucks!

And there are more, essential people just like her. We can’t tell them “thank you” too often.

There’s the gal at the post office, the teachers at the school, the mechanic who fixes my old grandma car, the teller at the bank window, the cashier at the market — all essential people we’ve probably taken for granted on another day in the country.

Last modified Feb. 11, 2021

 

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